If we want to change any injustice in the world, we first have to question why it exists in the first place. By asking the right questions we can understand the underlying reasons and together with other like-minded people become the trigger for change. When we are raising our children to become global citizens it is important that we teach them to never stop asking and to question things they instinctively feel are wrong. Gandhi calls this the “still small voice”:
The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority – Mahatma Gandhi
As parents this means that not only should we encourage our children to ask questions, but also be prepared to answer all the questions our kids may ask. If we brush them aside too often, our children’s willingness to keep asking may fade away. If we really don’t have the time to answer a question, rather than ignoring the child or saying (aka ‘lying’) “I don’t know!” or even worse: “Stop asking all these questions!”, we should acknowledge them and agree to answer them later. Then keep our promise.
Sometimes the honest answer is “I don’t know”, which we also have to be big enough to admit. Parents do not know everything (and don’t we know it!) On the other hand, there can quite often be several “right” answers.
Encouraging asking also means that we have to accept that our own parental authority may be put into question. Everyone may not agree with me, but I think every child should have the right to challenge an adult, may it be a mother, father, teacher, any other person in authority or a stranger. As parents, our task is to teach our children to do this in an appropriate manner and to do it especially when something does not feel right. If they ask “Why don’t we ask the new girl to come and play with us?” when they are small, as adults the question may turn into: “Why not make our workplace more inclusive for everyone, independent of race or religion?”
Naturally, there are situations, where asking a question is not the right thing to do “Uncle, why is your nose so big and red?” and we find ourselves mumbling something about the Little Red Riding Hood story we read last night. Stopping to ask a question is of course not the right decision for a child in a potentially dangerous situation, when they should do whatever they can to run away or alert someone.
Our children’s questions are initially fairly easy to answer:
– Why do I have to sleep?
– Why can’t I taste the beautiful red mushroom?
… but they soon get more complicated (but still answerable):
– Why is the sea blue?
– Why is there hunger in the world when there is so much food in the shops?
… and at some point we may have to question our own views to be able answer them:
– Why don’t we sell all the stuff we don’t need and give the money to the poor?
– Why don’t you have any friends who are [input race / religion / sexuality]?
If our children feel confident in asking questions they will learn more and become open-minded to different opinions, people and cultures. I truly believe that one of the important characteristic of a Global Citizen is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time, draw informed conclusions and act accordingly.
May the peace and power be with you.
© Rita Rosenback 2015